Sunday, 15 November 2009


With the Vatican and the Israeli right wing still reeling from my latest denouncements and obscurantist clerics of all denominations trembling for what may be in store, I have decided to take a short break, so as to give unto the world one of the food recipes, for which I am justly famous - though among a group that is still too limited.

It is of course my variant of Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá.

Bacalhau is dried and salted cod, a product traditionally sold by countries in northernmost Europe to Roman Catholic Iberians to ensure that whatever the season or weather, they have fish available for Friday evenings. In northern Europe, this food, called klipfisk or stokfisk, is despised, which is understandable, if you have tried it the way my mother prepared it in my early childhood (being both rational and kind-hearted, she stopped the practice). In Spain and especially Portugal it was discovered that dried cod and olive oil make a superb combination; it is difficult to describe how and why, but even people, who don't usually like fish are often convinced by an Iberian bacalhau dish. One of the most famous of the over 100 Portuguese recipes is the one invented in Porto in the 19th century by Sr Gomes de Sá. There is, however, room for improvement. The Portuguese have a number of fine traditional dishes, but are often stuck with certain fixtures such as sprinkling eggs in places, where they may add a nice visual touch, but at the cost of a negative influence on the flavour. And why they are so reluctant to use wine in cooking, escapes me.

So here we go:
1 kg bacalhaus (salted and dried cod)
1 kg medium size potatoes
4 - 5 medium-size onions
1 small whole garlic, peeled and chopped
As many black olives as you like
1 generous cup olive oil
Parsley chopped
1 bottle of white wine

Soak the cod in cold water for 12 to 24 hours,changing the water 2-4 times. This is the critical part of the preparation. If you soak for too long or change too many times, you lose too much of the prized dry cod flavour; if you do too little, it will be too salty. This of course also depends on how thick the pieces are.

Boil the fish in fresh water for 15-20 minutes depending on the shape of the pieces. Pour off the water and set aside to cool.

At the same time boil the cleaned but not peeled potatoes for 10 minutes, using the last change of water from the cod (dilute if you think it is too salty).

With your bare hands, split the cod into gross flakes, remove skin and bones (use a knife if needed).

Slice the half-boiled potatoes as well as the onions.

Heat 3/4 of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onions to light golden. Add the potatoes, most olives and all fish and stir gently to avoid crushing the potato pieces too much. Add some herbes de provence, if you feel like it. Mix in the garlic (which loses too much flavour if thoroughly fried).

Place it all in a large oven-proof dish, place some olives on top for visual effect, pour 3/4 of the wine over it and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 oC for 30 minutes. Allow the top surface to become golden and a little crusty, but check a couple of times and if it looks too dry, add more olive oil and wine. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Best results are obtained by preparing in the morning or day before, allowing to cool and heating thoroughly just before serving. The longer the ingredients interact, the better.

Which wine? Any good heavy duty white wine will do. I would not use a chablis and certainly not a vinho verde. Most local Portuguese wines would be OK, but the ideal might be a sauvignon blanc, or a Riesling for fruitiness. I haven't tried with red wine, but hope that somebody will be adventurous enough to do so. In contrast, we have often accompanied this dish with red Alentejo, Côte du Rhône or other substantive stuff.

Bon ap'!

Monday, 31 August 2009


by email on 30 August 2009

I don't perceive Yad Vashem as a place that should give you details and facts about the holocaust, nor does Yad Vashem perceive itself as such and therefore within Yad Vashem I guided "educational groups": schools, yeshivas, "Birthright" and others. Yad Vashem declaratively has educational weeks, sessions, to the IDF (army), youth movements, high schools and with bringing up questions of humanity, moral, remembrance, nationality, social justice. Yad Vashem plays a roll in fighting anti-semitism, holocaust denials, and genocides around the world. Moreover, Yad Vashem directed me to speak about the "independence war" which battle-fields lie in front of the exit of the museum; about Israel as a possible refuge for the Jews after the holocaust; about how do Israelis perceive the holocaust and about the well-implemented axis: "from Holocaust to Revival (the state of Israel).

To speak about these things without sparing a few sentences about the Palestinian/Arab point of view - is leaving the "educated" student incapable of understanding the complexity of the situation which the area is in these days, leaving him one option - a blaming finger to the Arabs (that didn't accept us in the region), Palestinian (for not saying "oh good that you came. we kept the place for you for 2000 years. We take our stuff and leave this place. You deserve it - you had the holocaust") and the "free world" that didn't do anything to stop it on time.
This the education that is stuffed into the brains of youngsters in Israel, from generations that grew into this victimhood and wars - disabling a whole society from seeing simple facts around them (like the occupation that we tend to forget or think we do it out of "SECURITY")and becoming crueller and crueller.

Jews around the world and in Israel support massive killing in Gaza while accusing the German society for not kicking Hitler out in the 30's. By racist laws, discrimination and violence against Palestinians within us - we are beyond Nazi Germany before the war (only we don't have a one-strong-leader).

If Yad Vashem puts the quotation of Martin Niemöller - a German pastor: "When they came to take the Communists, I did not protest because I was not a Communist; When they came to take the Jews, I did not protest because I was not a Jew; When they........When they came to take me - there was no-one to protest" - high in the museum - it means that Yad Vashem motivates activist-thoughts about what should people do when they see injustice, growing hatred on basis of race, ethnos etc. The fact that they can only blame the "world" and never look inside - is because they are a full part of the brainwash system that sent me and hundreds of thousands to kill, control, demolish and bring a sacrifice to the gods of arm-trade.

Hope that pictures in a way my thoughts about the subject. Maybe it is worth adding that a professor from the academic board of Yad Vashem tried to raise the subject to be discussed with the other professors of Yad Vashem - she was ingnored a whole month and then answered: "no". No will of anyone in Yad Vashem - nor the academic board neither the administration - to discuss a matter of the borders of politics in Yad Vashem, freedom of speech, formal attitude of the institution, borders of education and also not what I had exactly said in that specific tour - shows only fear and cover for something sensitive.

It is time to see the reality around us - professors are being fired for saying things in classes, researchers being threatened by the secret police when until not long ago they would touch only Arabs. And so on.

It is coming at us and can blow the whistle to a new war.

Yours, Itamar

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Father Jekyll and Monsignore Hyde

Go to a village. No, I mean go to a village in a catholic country, and look for its centre. If it is a rich country like Italy or Spain, it may be a shopping centre, a restaurant, a memorial. If the place is poor, it is the church and you will most likely find that this is not because of its more or less ancient stones, but because the Pater behaves as a father. Around the world, there must be hundreds of thousands of these people, who channel spirit and courage to their communities, console them, care for them, knows their concerns, learns from them, channel philanthropy in an honest and efficient way and creatively promote appropriate agricultural development. Many of them have the courage to listen to their parishioners and their own conscience before they listen to their superiors and in so doing they may act as humans and Christians rather than as the cogs in a wheel that some of their learned bishops may wish for. And so it happens that within the framework of the catholic church, it is possible for example for prostitutes to be advised on avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, for ordinary women to be helped to access family planning and for homosexuals to be told that there is not something wrong with them.

If you go to Rome or any city in a catholic country, you may, if you wish, meet a high-ranking representative of the Roman catholic church such as a Monsignore. He shall explain to you, why it is good to inspire guilt in those who came into the world with sexual desires, which are not like the majority's (but in all fairness often like his own, though that will not be intimated), that it is God's justice, if the ignorant prostitute dies from AIDS (though in all fairness he or she may have a chance beyond), and that it is sinful to use a contraceptive rather than begetting a child, who is, given the prevailing poverty, likely to advance from starving street-child to prostitution and an early death.

The catholic church has these two sides. Other churches and denominations also, but not in such startling contrast.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Open letter to Itamar Shapira

Dear Itamar,

I was moved, when I saw the news about you and Yad Vashem in April this year. According to the press, you were fired because you told a group of Yeshiva students about Deir Yassin and suggested to them that there are parallels between the Nakba and the Holocaust.

You were right, but I think Yad Vashem was also right to fire you. Certainly, the Holocaust's lessons would derive from historical study, including comparison with other genocides and related events, but that is beyond the purpose of Yad Vashem.

As a visitor to a museum and as a participant in a guided tour one has a right to be presented only with facts and documentation. I remember being upset, when visiting Yad Vashem the first time, about 40 years ago by a guide, who kept on commenting and interpreting, just as I was once by a tourist guide in Rome, who kept on comparing the Roman empire with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Incidentally, I visited the new Yad Vashem in 2007 and was positively impressed by it (well, I had carefully avoided any guide).

Nonetheless, I feel strongly that you did the right thing. Being neither a Jew nor an Israeli, but with a strong affinity to your country, I believe that its future depends on people with your kind of courage. Israelis have to come to terms with what happened in 1948 and examine all that went wrong since then because of the blindness on both sides. Only on that basis would it be possible to discuss face to face with Palestinians the meaning of peace and justice.

For this, it would also be necessary to overcome the Israeli ambiguity about the Shoah. The history of Israel cannot be understood without knowing the Shoah. But that being said, Israel should make it clear that the nation is not built on the ashes of Auschwitz. Both because it isn't and because the insistence on remembrance of the Shoah as part of Israel's genesis is unhelpful to any peace process.

Itamar, it is of course intriguing that we have the same surname. I would not mind continuing correspondence with you, because I suspect, we share many ideas and would also disagree on some points.

Best wishes,

Basle, Switzerland 16 August 2009


Saturday, 31 January 2009


January 2009

Israel has a right to defend itself.
Outcome at the end of this month:
More than 1300 + 14; or 1300/14; or 1300 - 14; or?

The election committee of Israel's parliament decided to exclude the two main Arab parties from the parliamentary elections in February alleging that they are disloyal to Israel. The decision has been overturned by the Israeli judiciary. Thanks.

On 25 January, Herbert Pundik wrote in Politiken:
"The principle was, as admitted from the military side, to soften the opposition by overwhelming firepower before an attack in order to save Israeli soldiers’ lives. Since many of the Hamas guerrillas had sought a position on the roofs of Gaza City, from where they shot at the Israeli forces, Israeli artillery shot at the houses to kill the shooters, leading to the result , which can be seen on television. Entire neighbourhoods were laid flat." (My translation from Danish)
Israel has a right to defend itself. HOW?

According to the English language web-site of Ha'aretz on a secret report prepared by the Government of Israel (accessed 31 January):
"An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents." According to international law, the colonization of occupied land by the occupying power is illegal. Israel, however, does not consider itself as an occupying power in the West Bank. Its is now public that Israeli law is regularly broken and even neglected by the Israeli Government in the settlement process in the West Bank. Lawlessness rules. There are similarities with the situation in Guantanamo, but also differences - for example in the scale.

With what RIGHT can Israel claim its RIGHT to defend itself?

Asking that question is not to say that anybody has a RIGHT to fire rockets or other dangerous devices at Israeli civilians and non-combatants. It is also not to wish the death of any Israeli soldier.